July 24, 2015

The Brutal Reality of the Kremlin's “Integration Meanings”

 

Recently, at the Youth Forum “Territory of Meanings on the Klyazma” (July 13-August 08, 2015) IT-experts asked V. Putin to continue the policy of isolationism as the only way to preserve Russian statehood, sovereignty and population. But the “democratic ruler” cheered up by the presence of the leaders of China, India, Pakistan and Iran at the Ufa Summits of BRICS and SCO, objected to them, offering globalization and increased integration as a measure to counter external challenges and to prevent the political and economic collapse of the Russian Federation.

That is, even the mobilized by “Rosmolodezh”(“Russian Youth”) technocratic “patriots” do not understand the constant turmoil of the Russian government's foreign policy, trying to counter the international isolation and to realize its global and regional interests in the post Soviet (the doctrine of the “Russian World” and “modernized Soviet Union”) and the wider Eurasian space.

Maybe let us try and find out what the Kremlin strategists and rulers really want?

The negative reaction of the leading countries of the world to the Kremlin's rough and cynical violating the international law and its aggression against Ukraine,  and the absolutely unexpected for Moscow European consensus on the matter determine significant need of the Russian side in compensatory strengthening its positions within the framework of the integration formations (in particular, EAEC, CIS, CSTO) existing on the post-Soviet territories and expansion of other interstate organizations like the BRICS and the SCO.

Since Russia is not willing to assist in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements and is trying to “freeze” the conflict in the Donbas, the international political and economic situation around it for a long time will not change, including as a result of Western sanctions. Although in the past year Russia demonstrated that for some  time it can militarly-economically oppose the West without consequences for the ruling elite, but this current confrontation with Western countries meets the interests only of a part of the Russian so-called elite.

It is clear that at the beginning of his “second first” presidential term, V. Putin cannot afford to show weakness on the foreign policy front, and will try to push forward his agenda on the grounds of “non-Western” organizations — development of technological exchanges within the framework of the BRICS, enlargement of the SCO, formation of a new center of development around the projects of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Economic Belt of the new Silk Road.

Acceleration of Russia's technological lagging behind the leading countries of the world and the threat of its turning into a technological periphery in the medium term will force the Kremlin leadership to make adjustments to its geopolitical ambitions, focusing primarily on ensuring its dominance in the post-Soviet space.

Today, the Russian leader's favorite child — the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) — is going through its not the most successful era. Experts of the CIS Executive Committee and diplomats of the allied countries have to recognize that the expansion of the Eurasian Economic Union, which took place at the expense of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan's joining it, in fact, is artificial and does not meet the standards and criteria of this integration entity.

In particular, the new members of the Organization did not fulfill the necessary conditions for the implementation of technical regulations of the EAEU, the state of their economic development and legislative framework do not meet the established requirements. Besides, the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EAEC) contrary to legal norms allowed Armenia for two years (until January 1, 2018) not to fulfill the “union” technical regulations and to continue to apply to goods imported or manufactured in Armenia, the norms of the national legislation. It is not excluded that a similar decision will be taken at the end of 2015 in relation to Kyrgyzstan, the legislation and economy of which is actually not ready to integrate into the EAEU. All this confirms that the accelerated accession of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to the EAEU was solely for the sake of Moscow's demonstrating the “successful” construction of the new union.

Moreover, virtually all the participating countries of the EAEU, especially Belarus, have substantial claims against the EAEC, in particular concerning the inability of a supranational body to resolve the contradictions in the economic and trade sector both, on a bilateral level with the Russian Federation, and within the framework of the negotiations on joining the WTO. The Russian-Belarusian conflict over food imports to Russia continues. Even the first persons could not settle this conflict during their direct bilateral contacts, including within the framework of the Eurasian integration format. Besides, Belarus and Kazakhstan have no particular desire to speed up the creation of a monetary union, which V. Putin plans to  implement in the nearest future.

In general, according to the consensus-forecast (IMF, SC, EBRD) of economic development of the Association (EAEU), the pace of economic development of Russia and Belarus during the current year and in the nearest future will have negative indicators. Moreover, new member states of the EAEU (Armenia, Kyrgyzstan) in 2015-2016 will also have lower rates of development than in previous years.

Similar trends are observed in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the leaders of which, after the Russia's aggression against Ukraine, have, even if not publicly, to revise Russia's role in the CIS, including as a destructive member, and their concept of national security policy, to change approaches to military construction, to speed up the process of delimitation of borders with the Russian Federation, which for a long time had been deliberately hindered by the Russian side, and to look for new partners outside the Commonwealth.

Today the leaders of the CIS countries are not ready to officially condemn the aggressive actions of the Kremlin against Ukraine. They are trying to show the priority of cooperation with Russia within the framework of the existing organizations — CIS, CSTO, CU/EAEU, SCO — as opposed to other international integration structures. The reason for this is Russia's active using in the first place for countries with authoritarian regimes, of a wide arsenal of economic and military-political pressure, as well as its indirect threats to put forward territorial claims to them.

At the same time the Russian side, by putting pressure on its “junior partners”, will continue persuading them that only the accession of CIS countries to the EAEU (as opposed to participation in the CIS FTA) will allow them to enjoy the benefits/preferences in the economic cooperation with Russia and to establish political dialogue with it at the highest level. However, in the future CIS will increasingly become a platform where the general policy declarative positions of the participating countries are announced and ideological decisions are taken.

Moscow is trying to demonstrate its ability to develop “friendly” military-political blocs under international sanctions, through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), where it also unequivocally dominates. In particular, Moscow, which previously accented initiatives under the Collective Security Treaty Organization mainly on providing military and military-technical assistance to Central Asian countries to counter threats from Afghanistan, is trying at the same time to strengthen the Organization's capacity in some new directions, positioning the CSTO as a kind of counterbalance to NATO against the background of deteriorating relations with the West in the face of increasing threat of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL, now IS)'s coming closer to the borders of the CSTO member states.

Now at the conceptual level, the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation considers the expansion of the influence of the IS not just for the sake of distraction of the international community's attention from Russia's  aggression in the East of Ukraine and the occupation of the Crimea, but also as a major threat to Putin's regime. This is due to the fact that the aforementioned threat is actualized in the context of the overall trend of radicalization of the moods of Russian citizens, especially in the North Caucasus republics.

On the other hand, other CSTO member states are trying to get certain tactical advantage from their “membership”. Thus, Russia's closest partners in the CSTO — Belarus and Kazakhstan — perceive it as a force element of the “Eurasian project”. Both, Minsk and Astana are sure that participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization will enhance their benefit from membership in the EAEU and will help  strengthening and development of cooperation in military and military-technical spheres, first of all with Russia.

Armenia also sees this organization only as a deterrent to the aggressive policy of Azerbaijan, contributing to stabilizing the situation in the South Caucasus (because of the problem of Nagornyi Karabakh), and in such circumstances is ready to follow in the wake of Moscow and to support its initiatives at the regional level.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, not able today to counter the internal and external threats on their own, are most of all interested in the establishment and effective functioning of regional security. However, their regional capabilities are largely offset, and the local ruling clans are not able to form their own foreign policy initiative. In other words, Moscow perceives them exclusively as recipients of military aid, and thus as the absolute conductors of Russian interests in the CSTO.

So, the economic and political dependence of the RF's “smaller” partners in the CSTO in the future will lead to the fact that the Russians will be using the  Organization to impose their vision of the current security situation, including in relation to Ukraine, with periodic voicing by the CSTO's Secretary General of special statements where the attention will focus on the fact that the West supports “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe bringing NATO closer to the borders of Russia/CSTO. At this, they will mention the CSTO's being ready to adequately respond to potential threats from the Alliance.

July 8-10, 2015 in Ufa against a single foreign policy background, there were held the summits of the BRICS and the SCO, positioned by Putin's apologists as the most important in the plans of the Russian Federation (read V. Putin) international events in 2015.

Today, the Kremlin's propaganda mouthpieces publicly report on the achievements of Russia's Presidency (since April 2015) in the BRICS in the transformation of this transcontinental group into a full-length global player the “alternative to G7”, creation of elements of an alternative to the western world financial and economic system in the form of association of financial institutions — the New Bank and the Pool of conditional foreign exchange reserves with a total capital of 200 billion US dollars, as well as on the international significance of the signing of the Partnership Strategy of the BRICS countries until 2020.

At the same time, numerous systemic contradictions between the members of the BRICS group (in particular, between China and India), the acceleration of destructive processes in national economies of individual member countries (especially of Russia and Brazil), the lack of a common ideological platform (except for anti-Americanism and the idea of ​​polycentric world), as well as Beijing's  geopolitical, geo-strategic and geo-economic ambitions, significantly slow down the process of deepening cooperation among the BRICS countries. In fact, all this makes impossible Russia's turning this informal group into a consolidated monolithic “anti-Western” world center of power — “alternative G7”.

In the “anti-Western” mainstream, the Kremlin envoys started closed-door consultations with Ambassadors of member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on the possible creation of the so-called “Coordination Council”, which, according to Moscow, should contribute to formation of a political, military, technical, financial, economic and energy “anti-Western front” at the global level back in June 2015.

To achieve this, the Russian side agreed to provide maximum “perspectives and preferences”, first of all, to China and other countries involved in the activities of the SCO (including the candidates for membership), as well as to the economic, energy and military cooperation of the SCO with ASEAN countries (on more favorable terms for the latter).

To the delight of Putin's supporters, the Ufa Summit allegedly turned the  SCO into the “Other Eight” having adopted for the first time in 15 years a number of decisions: on the launch of the procedure of admission to the organization of nuclear states — India and Pakistan; on Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal's joining the Organization as “dialogue partners”; on Belarus' becoming “an observer at the SCO”. On the proposal of the Russian Federation was discussed and supported Iran's bid for membership in the SCO (in the context of settlement of the issue of Iran's nuclear program).

However, even the President of the “friendly” Uzbekistan, who is now  heading the Shanghai Organization, had to express warning regarding new candidate countries for membership in the Organization, and to remind that the SCO is not directed against other countries, nor is it a military-political alliance.

With all the pathos of officialdom and numerous support groups to the summit of the SCO, we can't mentioning a rather complicated position of the Russian political elite, in particular, its latent resistance to the development of the Organization. According to international experts-orientalists, it is explained by the fact that the Russian side is not happy with the role of a younger brother, while for equal with China participation it does not have enough resources due to the failed prospects of the economy and finances of the Russian Federation. The security sphere, where Moscow could seriously dominate for a long time, the Russian government has transferred to other sites, bilateral and CSTO's, having de facto agreed to the given by China dominant: SCO is a tool to promote China's economic interests in the vast of the Organization (the new project of the Economic Belt of the New Silk Road), even in spite of the introduction of elements of a possible Sino-Indian competition in the future.

Having analyzed the development of the situation in the SCO (the main content of annual summits is the leaders' bilateral meetings “on the sidelines of the SCO,” and not the actual summits) and Xi Jinping's foreign tour during 2013-2015, it can be argued that the leaders of Central Asian countries and Kazakhstan have already chosen the Chinese project. Another evidence to this is the Final Declaration of the Summit in Ufa. Putin's mentioning at the press conference in Ufa of  the compatibility and consistency of the two integration projects — the EAEU and the Economic Belt of the New Silk Road — most likely, is a tribute to the Moscow's  “negotiation” fashion rather than the objective economic reality.

So, the role and significance of the SCO will be gradually narrowed to the level of regional negotiation platform to counter the Western-centric universe and the “ministry of foreign trade activities of China”, and not to its turning into  the “Other Eight”, as stated by Putin's apologists. These are, according to Borysfen Intel's experts, “brutal realities and prospects for the adventurous Kremlin's imperial ambitions, not supported by any creative projects or resources.

Systemic contradictions between the members of the BRICS group, destructive processes in the national economies of a number of member countries, the lack of a common ideological base, as well as Beijing's geopolitical ambitions significantly slow down the process of deepening cooperation among the BRICS countries, which will not make possible this group's turning into the groundlessly declared by Russia “anti-Western “world center of power”, the alternative to G7 “.

As for the post-Soviet territories, V. Putin will continue looking at all political processes only within the framework of a global confrontation with the West, not without reason, being afraid of realization of the “Ukrainian scenario”, of the emergence of various kinds of “colored revolutions” and so on. In such circumstances, the Kremlin will see all, without exception, internal processes in satellite states (members of the CIS, CSTO, EAEU) dreading a  “revenge of the West”, which “should not be allowed”.

As you can see, the “Russian public opinion” is set to fight against the whole world.